Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

  • Music:

Chasing now

Last night, at a dinner gathering of thoughtful, engaging people, I was warned that many first year Master's degree students feel like I do now - uncertain, unhappy, seeking their reasons for being here. "Don't worry," she comforted me, "it gets better."

In our conservation biology class last week, we talked about faith. How does our faith affect what we feel about conservation? What leap of faith do we take when we decide that the planet needs saving? What faith do we have in ourselves, that our work will make a difference?

I am asking myself other questions of faith - Who am I devoted to? Who do I turn away from? What is my path here, in Durham, and is it right? Is it the best I could be doing? Is this really what I love?

Over the past week I've struggled to catch up in my classes, struck behind by my own desire to continue dancing at the level that I was in California. With frustration, I realize it is not possible. I go the other way this week, don't dance at all. And when I slip my shoes on to teach for an hour, it feels like coming home.

A woman from Chile, Dr. Laura Nahuelhual, came to give a seminar on Wednesday. She recently completed a project in a watershed there to put a dollar value on the water rights. But she concluded by saying: we're not sure how this will help the region yet. Since the land is not under threat, nobody (rightly) wants to begin paying for a system that's working well on its own. Someone could take this model and expand it to areas that do need help. But, she said, that requires money.

On the other hand, late in August, Dr. Chu Thai Hoanh, a water resources specialist from SE Asia came and spoke to us about the conflicts between agriculture and aquaculture (things like shrimp farming) and proved that analyses of how to divert water between farmland and to shrimp farms could have real effects on what livelihood people choose, and therefore, on their per capita income.

I'd like to think that I can still be the bridge between learning and application - that when people say "the difficulty with what I'm studying is in implementing it" - I can stand up and be useful.

Yet when I open Annie Dillard, and she says "this is the now, this flickering broken light, this air that the wind of the future presses down my throat, pumping me buoyant and giddy with praise".. I feel only stillness within me. Words which once rose clamoring in response, crystalline and joyous, lay quiet within me. I begin to fear that somewhere on the road I've lost my own light, and that so drowned in the dust of time's passing, it cannot now shine with its own light.

A part of me refuses this. I don't want to live through this year hoping for the next year to be better. That is too much faith for me. Today is what I am living, and today is what I must have. So then, what now?
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